Cartel of Defiance

cartel of defiance (noun): 1. In medieval combat, a formal declaration, delivered by herald, of a combatant's intention to fight and refusal to submit. 2. An electronic assemblage of engaged and enraged citizens. 3. An intertextual mode of reading, writing, and thinking that puts the current political, cultural, and personal moment in dialogue with text/art from the past in counterargument to the ahistorical Memory Hole into which America seems to have slipped.

Friday, April 29, 2005

a london chronicle

....Now it was pointed out to me the example of a Professor C____ who had constructed a low, strong tower that overlooked the passage into the Southern entrance of this great city. In building his fortress, C. had spared no expense, and it was bedecked with crenellations, murder holes, embrasures, and merlons to such an extent as to provide this Professor an invulnerable parapet overlooking the crowded road below.

C. used this perch, or battlement, not to hurl hot oil, or arrows or bolts....but instead to hurl insults on those who passed beneath. And, as the gate it overlooked was quite popular with the literate and scholarly class, who used it to pass to and from their various assemblages and lectures, C. was kept quite busy antagonizing those who passed below.

In particular, our Professor enjoyed making sport of the appearance of the bookish passers by: their hats, their shoes, their carriage, their aspect and even their sundry physiognomies were not spared his bitter barbs, which he hurled with great aim and diligence, taking care to make sure that his targets might smart from his thick, yet mordant, wit.

I was told that scholars had got used to scurrying past this baleful tower and its occupant...and that no one had ever stopped to knock on the gate, or to ask him why he felt the need to barricade himself inside...which C. must have found quite sad and strange....for when he was not hurling invective, our professor made himself quite busy from the top of his bulwark delivering lectures intended for the popular folk .

Unfortunately, it proved very difficult for the public to make out what C. was saying from atop his lonely escarpment...and very few if any of his intended students could make out much of what was taught...for, in contrast to his career as a critic, C. tended to mumble his lectures and lose himself in digressions whose flights of fancy and history were known only to him.

Alas, my guide told me, here on the Southern gate of this great Town was the world's smallest and saddest University....a fortress for One, under which the Many scampered. I did not pause to knock on its forbidding door, and counted myself lucky to slip into the city unnoticed by its occupent....

from Darby's Journey into London, and other tales of Alacrity and Woe, 1754

Saturday, April 23, 2005

à rebours

Already, he was dreaming of a refined solitude, a comfortable desert, a motionless ark in which to seek refuge from the unending deluge of human stupidity.

J.K. Huysmans, trans. John Howard

Friday, April 22, 2005

To His Coy Mistresses (or, Zimmerman #2)

Do you love me --
Or are you just extending good will?
Do you need me half as bad as you say --
Or are you just feeling guilt?
I've been burned before so I know the score
So you won't hear me complain.
Will I be able to count on you --
or is your love in vain?

Bob Dylan, Street Legal

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

father dolan

Stephen lifted his eyes in wonder and saw for a moment Father Dolan's whitegrey not young face, his baldy whitegrey head with fluff at the sides of it, the steel rims of his spectacles and his nocoloured eyes looking through the glasses. Why did he say he knew that trick?

-- Lazy idle little loafer! cried the prefect of studies. Broke my glasses! An old schoolboy trick! Out with your hand this moment!

Stephen closed his eyes and held out in the air his trembling hand with the palm upwards. He felt the prefect of studies touch it for a moment at the fingers to straighten it and then the swish of the sleeve of the soutane as the pandybat was lifted to strike. A hot burning stinging tingling blow like the loud crack of a broken stick made his trembling hand crumple together like a leaf in the fire: and at the sound and the pain scalding tears were driven into his eyes. His whole body was shaking with fright, his arm was shaking and his crumpled burning livid hand shook like a loose leaf in the air. A cry sprang to his lips, a prayer to be let off. But though the tears scalded his eyes and his limbs quivered with pain and fright he held back the hot tears and the cry that scalded his throat. ...

-- Kneel down, cried the prefect of studies.

Stephen knelt down quickly pressing his beaten hands to his sides. To think of them beaten and swollen with pain all in a moment made him feel so sorry for them as if they were not his own but someone else's that he felt sorry for. And as he knelt, calming the last sobs in his throat and feeling the burning tingling pain pressed into his sides, he thought of the hands which he had held out in the air with the palms up and of the firm touch of the prefect of studies when he had steadied the shaking fingers and of the beaten swollen reddened mass of palm and fingers that shook helplessly in the air.

-- Get at your work, all of you, cried the prefect of studies from the door. Father Dolan will be in every day to see if any boy, any lazy idle little loafer wants flogging. Every day. Every day.

The door closed behind him.

--James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914)

Monday, April 18, 2005


She wished to descredit it entirely, repeatedly exclaiming, "This must be false! This cannot be! This must be the grossest falsehood!" -- and when she had gone through the whole letter, though scarcely knowing any thing of the last page or two, put it hastily away, protesting that she would not regard it, that she would never look in it again.

In this perturbed state of mind, with thoughts that could rest on nothing, she walked on; but it would not do; in half a minute the letter was unfolded again, and collecting herself as well as she could, she again began the mortifying perusal of all that related to Wickham, and commanded herself so far as to examine the meaning of every sentence.

-- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Volume 2, Chapter 13

In theory, no request for action should be taken directly to higher authorities—a process known as “stovepiping”—without the information on which it is based having been subjected to rigorous scrutiny. The point is not that the President and his senior aides were consciously lying. What was taking place was much more systematic—and potentially just as troublesome. Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, whose book “The Threatening Storm” generally supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein, told me that what the Bush people did was “dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership."

-- Seymour Hersh, The Stove-Pipe, The New Yorker, Oct. 20, 2003

in honor of a birthday

a birthday is what?

a celebration of trips around the sun?
an annual diversion from daily tasks?
an entry marker or a reminder...
of entries and exits
and what it means
to be on this stage for our brief spell?

or is a birthday a way to say,
for one day
the value of a friend?

in so many small words and gestures
as might make a sum,
a tribute,
an acknowledgment of that friendship,
that we come together once a year
to celebrate

your words
your listening
your life
your wit
and all that makes you...

and those particulars
which shine on this day
but shine the brighter
for the fact that we might count you
as our friend...
that we might honor you
on this your birthday
as you honor us
on every day,
good friend,
with your own Self.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

history rhymes

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can't hear our words.

But whenever there's a snatch of talk
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

the ten thick worms his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,

the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
the glitter of his boot-rims.

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.

One whistles, another meouws, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.

He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.

--Osip Mandelstam, "The Stalin Epigram" (trans. Clarence Brown & W.S. Merwin)

~When Stalin learned of this poem in 1934, he had Mandelstam arrested. The poet died in the Gulag in 1938.

Monday, April 11, 2005

against forgetting

Composed in the Tower before his execution
These moving verses, and being brought at that time
Painfully to the stake, submitted, declaring thus:
"I implore my God to witness that I have made no crime."

Nor was he forsaken of courage, but the death was horrible,
The sack of gunpowder failing to ignite.
His legs were blistered sticks on which the black sap
Bubbled and burst as he howled for the Kindly Light.

And that was but one, and by no means one of the worst;
Permitted at least his pitiful dignity;
And such as were by made prayers in the name of Christ,
That shall judge all men, for his soul's tranquility.

We move now to outside a German wood.
Three men are there commanded to dig a hole
In which the two Jews are ordered to lie down
And be buried alive by the third, who is a Pole.

Not light from the shrine at Weimar beyond the hill
Nor light from heaven appeared. But he did refuse.
A Luger settled back deeply in its glove.
He was ordered to change places with the Jews.

Much casual death had drained away their souls.
The thick dirt mounted toward the quivering chin.
When only the head was exposed the order came
To dig him out again and to get back in.

No light, no light in the blue Polish eye.
When he finished a riding boot packed down the earth.
The Luger hovered lightly in its glove.
He was shot in the belly and in three hours bled to death.

No prayers or incense rose up in those hours
Which grew to be years, and every day came mute
Ghosts from the ovens, sifting through crisp air,
And settled upon his eyes in a black soot.

--Anthony Hecht, "'More Light! More Light!'" (1967)

~Hecht was a soldier with the US Army 90th Infantry Division when it liberated the Flossenbürg concentration camp in April, 1945.

~Buchenwald, just outside of Weimar, was liberated 60 years ago, on April 11, 1945.

~The quotation in the poem's title are the last words of Goethe, who lived in Weimar until his death in 1832 and for whom the forest of Buchenwald was a favorite retreat, where he would sit beneath the branches of an ancient oak whose preserved stump still stands inside the grounds of the Buchenwald Camp.

Encore Presentation

That's right, in honor of the confirmation hearing today for John Bolton, Cartel of Defiance is proud to present its first encore presentation! To see our orignal splutterings and quotations when the news first broke just click


Like other timeless debates which can give hours of amusement -- who's your favorite Marx Brother?, who was the best player on the 1976 Cincinnati Reds? -- Bush has given us a new category almost too easy to argue about with conviction, yet impossible to decide with any certainty. Who's the worst official to be promoted in the second term after gross misconduct in the first? With top candidates, strictly in alphabetical order: John Bolton, Alberto Gonzales, John Negroponte, Condoleeza Rice and last, but not not least, Paul Wolfowitz.

Could you stick to one answer without any doubt?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

No Doubt

"There is no doubt in my mind there is a living God,” Mr Bush said. “And no doubt in my mind that the Lord, Christ, was sent by the Almighty.” -- Bush’s faith ‘strengthened’ at Pope’s funeral, Financial Times, April 9 2005

"John Negroponte is a man of enormous experience and skill." Bush said in the Oval Office Monday. "Therefore, I'm comfortable in asking him to serve in this very difficult assignment. No doubt in my mind he can handle it. No doubt in my mind he'll do a very good job. And there's no doubt in my mind that Iraq will be free and democratic and peaceful." -- Bush Tips Choice For Iraq Ambassadorship, United Press International, April 19 2004

The president insisted that he made the right decision to invade Iraq. "There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a gathering threat to America and others. That's what we know," he said. -- Bush defends war despite no WMD findings in Iraq, USA Today, January 27 2004

"There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world peace, and there is no doubt in my mind that the United States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in removing him from power," Bush said. -- Democrats want uranium claim probed, CNN Inside Politics, July 9 2003

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." -- Declaration of war against Iraq, George Bush, March 17 2003

Texas Governor George W. Bush, who has presided over 124 executions, says he is certain not one of them was a mistake. "There's no doubt in my mind that each person who's been executed in our state was guilty of the crime committed." -- Dead Wrong?, CBS, May 30 2000

Thursday, April 07, 2005

spiny norman over d.c.


When the Piranhas left school they were called up but were found by an Army Board to be too unstable even for National Service. Denied the opportunity to use their talents in the service of their country, they began to operate what they called 'The Operation'. They would select a victim and then threaten to beat him up if he paid the so-called protection money. Four months later they started another operation which they called 'The Other Operation'. In this racket they selected another victim and threatened not to beat him up if he didn't pay them. One month later they hit upon 'The Other Other Operation'. In this the victim was threatened that if he didn't pay them, they would beat him up. This, for the Piranha Brothers, was the turning point.

--M.Python, "Ethel the Frog" (1970)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Orwell #5

The reason why the badness of contemporary pamphlets is somewhat surprising is that the pamphlet ought to be the literary form of an age like our own. We live in a time when political passions run high, channels of free expression are dwindling, and organised lying exists on a scale never before known. For plugging the holes of history the pamphlet is the ideal form. Yet lively pamphlets are very few . . . A good writer with something he passionately wanted to say -- and the essence of pamphleteering is to have something you want to say now, to as many people as possible -- would hesitate to cast it in pamphlet form, because he would hardly know how to set about getting it published, and would be doubtful whether the people he wanted to reach would ever read it. . . . At present the most hopeful symptom is the appearance of the non-party Left Wing pamphlet, such as the Hurricane Books. If productions of this type were as sure of being noticed in the press as are novels or books of verse, something would have been done towards bringing the pamphlet back to the attention of its proper public, and the level of the whole genre might rise. When one considers how flexible a form the pamphlet is, and how badly some of the events of our time need documenting, this is a thing to be desired.

-- "Review of Pamphlet Literature," The New Statesman and Nation, 1943

Friday, April 01, 2005


I picked up a pencil and held it over a sheet of white paper, but my feelings stood in the way of my words. Well, I would wait, day and night, until I knew what to say. Humbly now, with no vaulting dream of achieving a vast unity, I wanted to try to build a bridge of words between me and that world outside, that world which was so distant and elusive it seemed unreal.

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human.

-- Richard Wright, American Hunger

Man (1938)

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